SAMOA – An NGO in Samoa says the issue of customary land ownership needs to be resolved through a referendum. Last month, Samoa’s former head of state, Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, said ambiguity in article 102 of the constitution was leading to customary land being alienated. He called for legal minds to come together to address the problem. But the O Le Siosiomaga Society said Tui Atua’s statement was puzzling. The NGO’s chief executive, Fiu Mataese Elisara, said he was unable to trust any suggestion that solving the customary land issue should be through legal experts or the courts. Fiu said that “an independently conducted referendum with clearly articulated questions is the only way this customary land discourse can be and should be addressed”.
NAURU WAIVES VISA FEES FOR FORUM
NAURU – Nauru has waived visa fees for journalists covering this year’s Pacific Islands Forum. The Nauru government is hosting the meeting in September and says up to three media representatives will be approved from each member country. Nauru has been under pressure over its US$6000 visa application fee which was brought in four years ago amid focus on Australia’s controversial offshore detention camp on the island. The government said a total of 30 journalists will be accredited to cover the meeting in the first nine days of September. Once accredited, the government says an application must also be made to the Government of Nauru for a media visa as per usual procedures, and the standard approval criteria will apply.
RETURN OF COLONISING DEED ‘PUZZLING’
NEW CALEDONIA – There has been a mixed response to the news that the French president Emmanuel Macron is to return the original deed with which France took possession of New Caledonia in 1853. The document, which was signed on behalf of Napoleon III, has been brought to Noumea by Macron. Anti-independence politicians question the timing for this document being brought from the archive in France, suggesting that it ties into an official programme that appears to be against the majority who want to stay with France. A pro-independence leader, Roch Wamytan, has told local television that he was not advised about the president’s plan and its meaning – but assumes that by handing over the document he also returns New Caledonia’s independence. Macron’s itinerary also includes a visit on Saturday of the grave of 19 Kanaks killed in the 1988 Ouvea hostage crisis but a local tribe is strongly opposed to it, saying it would be a provocation.